I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


There are many stages to finishing a book. But one of the biggest is when you send off ten files that include Acknowledgements, Bibliography and Table of Contents, as well as deathless Introduction (oh! ghost of Gwen Harwood, who used to use that adjective to mock academic prose, do you choose this moment to visit me now? *shudders*) and seven chapters. As I have just done.

The study is a mess of papers; the computer is a mess of files (will back-up as soon as I post this post); there's an enormous pile of ironing in the basket; and a stack of emails to answer, and tasks to complete.

There'll be another round of tightening-up revisions once the copy-editors have been through the manuscript, and Helen and Anne are still working on the thirty photographs and images and permissions, but for now, I've done all I can.

I feel I've run a marathon. I'm dehydrated. I haven't been to the gym for a week. My shoulders ache and my eyes blur. I crash into bed at nights exhausted and lie waking for three more hours. It's partly the sheer masses of detail that have to be mastered: the checking, the refining, the polishing. The redundant commas to be removed: thanks, Romana! But hardest of all is the relinquishing, the letting go of the project and its infinite possibilities. The last few months have been a slow and painful process of letting go of all the other directions this book could have taken.

I feel I'm not writing this very eloquently. But I am also aware of the irony: finish a book, then immediately write something else!

Sometimes people ask me, "have you finished your work?" It's the nature of the academic life that you have never finished. There is always some ongoing project. I'm going to be late with a book review that's due in ten days.

But once a decade or so, I manage it. I have finished. My work here is done.

You're probably dying to know what the last word is. It's "heart".

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spelling word cloud

I'm sorting out spelling for my final manuscript submission. I use "find and replace" and search for our to change to or, but can't do a global change since so many of my source quotes are English, and there are words, of course, that don't change. So this is not a job that can be done after midnight (are you listening, Stephanie?).

Honor, favor, armor, but court, discourse, tournament. Also, who would have thought I would use the numbers four and fourteen so much? Well, I guess "fourteenth century" is part of the problem here.

The -ize words are even harder, as they look so weird: realize???  Some look ok, though, which makes me realis/ze how hybridis/zed my own spelling has become.

But the wonderful Jerry, my editor, emailed me this morning and said "regularize as you are able (notice the z, which is "zee" and neither a "zed" nor an s), but don't drive yourself nuts."  Which is good advice, as I'm still more likely to be fussing about spelling than doing the final revisions to Chapter Seven. Crazy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This house believes that restricting the growth of cities will improve quality of life.

Interested in the question of urban sprawl and the management of cities?

Interested in seeing how an international online debate can be structured and run?

Skip over to The Economist and see how close is this debate between my Paul and Chetan Vaidya: you have about a week to vote or take part in the debate.


Friday, January 14, 2011

when the rains came

You know the rains have hit Melbourne when you have to disconnect the agricultural pipe that fills the fish-pond from the run-off from the shed, so the pond won't overflow. That is all. Back to the footnotes to chapter four, and changing "honour" to "honor" throughout. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Sometimes I think the book I am finishing is brilliant. Sometimes I think it's under-researched, under-theorised and badly written.

Sometimes I think I'll have it ready to send off by the 21st of this month, as promised. Sometimes I think I'm just deluding myself.

Nevertheless, it finally now feels I am on a train that won't stop till I get there. There's a closing finality about each long sentence I break into two, each extraneous comma I remove, each query ("follow up", it says) I either resolve or abandon, each time I check whether I have already referred to a book or article so I can use its abbreviated title in the notes (Chicago style, I love you).

On Sunday I decided not to work on it late at night because it then became too hard to sleep. Yesterday I worked on it till midnight and slept all night, dreaming vividly, but sleeping all the same.

Nearly there.